The community should applaud and Monroe County apologize to Dr. Linda Gottwald now that she has been vindicated from the inaccurate press coverage brought on by the politically driven vendetta against her. Why? Because Stand Up for Animals, Inc. [SUFA] was awarded the contract, which the Florida Keys SPCA [FKSPCA] controlled for many years, and the “Bubba System” [that had been in place taking most of Middle Keys quarter million dollar budget to the Key West shelter] then stopped.
Accurate History: SUFA is a 501c3 federally regulated non-profit organization. It has its own board of directors, including locals from Monroe County despite the claims of a certain County Commissioner. SUFA was contracted by the County to provide animal control services from Marathon through Big Pine ending at MM 17 (Gottwald re-opened Big Pine). Per contract, the County cut monthly checks to SUFA. Anyone with a business understanding knows that monthly bills vary [pet food bills, repairs to the dilapidated building, etc.] Gottwald would not only use all of the “County” check to pay these bills, but had to supplement the County check with donations and grants annually from her 501c3 and even loans from her personal bank account to cover payroll. SUFA maintained separate accounts. FKSPCA totally co-mingled its funds for years (County checks and 501c3 donations in one account) and yet the County did not say a word. [“Bubba System”].
The topic of “County money” came up in the press frequently, when in fact, all of SUFA’s money belonged to SUFA. Look at a hypothetical example: If a County contracted garbage company drives its truck out of the County and the driver stops for lunch in Miami are they abusing funds by taking the asset (garbage) out of the County or using the petty cash for the driver to eat? If the contracted company is doing its job and providing waste disposal service and everyone is happy, they can flush the County money down the toilet if they wish. It is now the money of the contractor and not the County.
County could have prevented this fiasco: If Dent Pierce (Director of Public Works and Animal Control) had been actually doing his job, he would have reviewed the annual accountings and monthly animal license invoices Dr. Gottwald provided him, and brought any issues to Gottwald’s attention in the FIRST year of her contract instead of year 8. If anyone should have been sanctioned/fired/wages frozen, it should have been Mr. Pierce and Public Works. [Is your mind conjuring up the “Bubba” word?]
Fact: Every “County” dollar was used for the well being of Monroe County animals. The 501c3 SUFA money was used both in Monroe County for spay/neuter and also branched out to another state to provide homes for unadoptable shelter animals. No crime was committed by Gottwald or SUFA… the only crime was that of stupidity on the part of the County, thinking it could bully and threaten Gottwald into handing over SUFA’s 501c3 donated monies to the County.
Although I would have loved to have seen the County pay much more for its unprofessional mistreatment of Dr. Gottwald, I am relieved that she can put this bad page behind her and continue her passion of animal rescue and care elsewhere. The Keys lost a loving, caring and HONEST person and now as tax payers we lose more money (over $ 200k total) for the frivolous suit against Dr. Linda Gottwald by the County. Go Bubba system- you sure showed your corrupt — again!